Last year in Savannah, Food Day was celebrated with a large scale outdoor festival. We got off to an early start on October 22nd, the Saturday before Food Day. The early date seemed to work in our favor, as we had perfect weather and great attendance. We were particularly happy with the strong attendance from the local neighborhoods that were comprised primarily of the low income demographic which we were deliberately targeting.
This was surely in part because of the heavy advertising partnerships we developed, which included advertising in all 60 public transit buses, the local alternative weekly paper, the local African-American community paper, and commercials on our local government channel, ABC affiliate, Fox affiliate, and Clear Channel affiliate. Our ground team was also able to connect with several schools in the area, where we were able to distribute promotional materials and work with teachers to offer incentives to their students for attendance at the festival.
We estimate that over 7,500 people came out for the festival and over 400 people engaged in the 16 different workshops that ranged in topics from cooking, to gardening, to health and home.
Some highlights of the workshops included local chefs from Savannah’s finest restaurants, who conducted cooking classes on how to cook with seasonal local vegetables. Prominent local musicians also contributed their time to perform, including the McIntosh County Shouters, who had recently performed at the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress.
Proclamations were also secured from the State of Georgia, Chatham County, and The City of Savannah. Our county commissioner was also on hand to present us with the county proclamation and inaugurate the first Savannah Food Day Festival.
It was official: Food Day was recognized at all levels of government and is here to stay!
For 2012, we will be having the festival on October 28th, the Sunday after Food Day. This event is poised to once again be one of the largest in the nation and we anticipate it to be twice as large as our inaugural event from 2011. By moving the event to the weekend and bringing it closer to Halloween, we are hoping that this will boost attendance from families and children.
While last year’s focus was on boosting attendance from a low income demographic, this year the focus is on families and students. By building a partnership with the local public school system, we aim to offer a healthy and safe alternative for children to celebrate Halloween as a family. Its going to be Food Day Festival meets Fall Festival: games for the kids, farm animals, (healthy) cake walk, costume contest…you get the idea. The thing about staging successful events is that it all comes down to boosting attendance. If you are hoping to raise awareness for the issues you care about, the best way to increase exposure is with a carrot on a stick.
Sometimes you have to offer more incentives for people to attend an event. Giving someone one more reason to spend their time at your event, boosts attendance and ultimately means more people hearing your message and being exposed to the priorities of Food Day.
So how does one create or even begin to start planning for a large scale event?
In addition to using the official Food Day Organizers guide (a very well put together resource), Here are a few additional tips to help anyone interested in staging a Food Day event:
1. Don’t be shy “make the ask”:
Talk to your local media outlets about sponsoring, providing advertising or coverage of your event. The media actually stays pretty hungry for good news and likes to boost their public image. You may be able to get advertising for your event donated to you in exchange for listing them as a sponsor. When you have some advertising secured, start soliciting business owners for sponsorship as well. (Don’t forget to thank them publicly and in your promotional materials!)
Remember, before you spend money on anything, always see if you can get it donated to first.
2. Its 2012, use the digital tools available to you:
There are dozens of project management websites out there that will help you stay organized and collaborate more effectively with a group. Stop hunting through endless streams of email conversations and paper notes! Personally, we just started using the web service, ZOHO Projects.
Start building an email list to get the word out. Start with your own, then ask others if they would be willing to share theirs. Once you have compiled them all together, use a mass email service like Constant Contact.
3. Child labor laws don’t apply:
Put those kids to work! They can help create flyers and promote via Social media, with teens being especially adept at this. Children are walking and talking billboards, if you can get them excited about an event, you can be assured that they will tell all their friends. Kids can also help distribute flyers and communicate with their schools about joining in.
Ultimately, I believe Food Day is all about raising awareness and support of the priorities set forth by Food Day. Events are the perfect setting for this and should be enjoyable as well as educational. The larger the event, the more awareness we can achieve. I challenge everyone to continue to build their own events progressively larger with each year. The more difficult the task, the more rewarding is the goal. Good luck!
About the Author: Rene Teran is the director of the Savannah Food Day Festival and owner of Well FED Magazine, an independent food, dining and sustainable living magazine.
Feel free to contact Rene with any questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the Savannah Food Day Festival, visit: http://www.wellfedsavannah.com